is a Business Liability
DSL and Cable Internet are for
applications that don't lose money when the lines go down. T1
is professional grade.
By: John Shepler
There is the enthralling promise of better, faster
and cheaper with digital networking. Then there is the crushing
disappointment of connections gone bad. See if any of this sounds
You spent a bundle on a new VoIP phone
system with the idea that you'd get all sorts of advanced PBX-style
functions and screen pops when customers called for service,
and still be saving money on your phone bill within the year.
Then you watched helplessly as calls dropped, voices were so
garbled it sounded like talking under water, and the PC screens
You're running out of supplies because
the system automatically orders restocking...except the line's
been dead for two days and intermittent for the last month. Maybe
you won't run out of stock after all. None of the credit card
machines can connect to accept purchases.
That big prospect says "thanks, but
no thanks" when they can't receive your drawings and specs
for the new development. Your competitor's files arrived without
incident hours ago. The new $100K contract is now theirs.
Have you experienced anything like this
recently? If so, your in-house system may be working as advertised.
What's happening is that you've become a victim of cheap Internet
service. Victim? How can that be? Broadband Internet is the heart
of the Information Superhighway, right? Yeah, right.
Good Connectivity vs Bad Connectivity
Truth is that there is good connectivity and bad connectivity.
Companies that are just beginning to adopt networking technology
that extends beyond their organization are especially vulnerable
to getting the bad variety. Why? It's the siren call of bargain
broadband. For instance, which sounds like the better deal for
your operation: Broadband Internet with 3 Mbps download speed
for $30 a month or 1.5 Mbps for $300 a month?
Oh that's easy, you say. Give me the $30
solution. We'll, you got it. That's why you're so happy you could
cry right now. That $30 solution could be costing you $300 or
$600 a month in lost profits, lost customers and lost sales
opportunities. Just how patient are your customers when their
Web browser freezes as they try to order from your website, their
emails get returned as undeliverable, and the phone lines won't
It's not necessarily that you've been snookered
by an ISP that's trying to take your money and withhold service.
It's more likely that you're misapplying the service. The $30
solution is almost always a DSL or Cable Internet connection.
These are offered as "information services" by telephone
companies with DSL, and cable companies with Cable broadband.
The reason they are so reasonably priced is that they aren't
the main service offered on those lines. They are an extra service
that comes along for the ride. This service is not regulated
by the government. It is offered on a "best effort"
basis by the provider.
What this means is that your low cost broadband
is not guaranteed to be up and running for any percentage of
the time. You are sharing what's known as a high speed "backbone"
connection to the Internet simultaneously with dozens or hundreds
of your peers. If there is a problem with the equipment that
does that sharing, called multiplexing, or the provider just
needs to make adjustments or work on the lines, your connection
goes down. Cable companies are notorious for this. While they
work on improving someone's TV reception, everybody sharing that
part of the cable run finds their TV and Internet connections
cutting in and out. It may only be a few minutes a day, or the
whole system may go down for hours at a time.
You'll get your 3 Mbps download, but not
all the time. The speed will vary depending on how many other
people are using the line. You might even get 6 Mbps at times
or a tenth of that at other times. If you are any distance from
the local phone office, your DSL speeds are likely to be under
1 Mbps, maybe even half that. Plus, unless you qualify as a "residential"
user for a home office, you'll pay business rates that are perhaps
$100 to $150 for that $30 broadband connection.
How Paying More Per Month is Actually
Now lets consider that 1.5 Mbps connection for $300 a month.
Sounds pricey at first glance. But look closer and you'll find
that this T1 line runs at 1.5 Mbps upload and download continuously.
It's not shared. It's a dedicated connection to the Internet
backbone, which is itself likely running at optical network speeds
in the 1 to 10 Gbps range. There's nothing to slow you down.
T1 service is also a regulated service provided by telecommunications
providers, including incumbent and competitive phone companies.
When you sign your contract it includes an SLA or Service Level
Agreement that specifies the availability of your connection
and provides for remedies if the telecom company doesn't comply.
Being a regulated service, if the line gets cut or equipment
fails, the provider is going to hop right on the problem. You'll
get rapid and personal attention to your issues.
The sobering lesson that first-time business
broadband users learn is that consumer broadband connections
don't cut it for business. Certainly not if the outages have
consequences in the form of lost business and customer dissatisfaction.
Only if you are otherwise technically self-contained and use
the Internet on a casual basis or for the convenience of data
transfers that aren't time critical, does "best effort"
broadband make any sense as a cost saver. Otherwise it's likely
going to be a profit reducer when the lost sales are deducted
from the line savings.
If you are caught up in the sea change
of technology that is sweeping the small and medium business
market, SMBs from branch offices to quick service retailers,
sales and marketing organizations, and independent professional
offices, you should take a serious look at protecting your capital
investment and good name by installing professional grade telephone
and wide area networking connectivity. The most common and cost
effective connections are T1 lines that are available for voice,
data or a combination of the two. You can get T1 dedicated Internet
service or T1 private lines to interconnect your branch offices.
MPLS networks give you anywhere to anywhere mesh connections
to securely and reliably interconnect far flung business locations.
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